Bernard Martinez Valerio, former presidential candidate for the PINU-SD party, was selected by Porfirio Lobo Sosa to be the new Minister of Culture in Honduras.
Martinez, a self-identified Afrohonduran and Garifuna, began his career as an environmental health worker and quickly rose to head a section of the medical workers union, first in Trujillo, then in La Ceiba. He has held positions in the Organización de Desarrollo Étnico Comunitario (ODECO), a non-profit that works for social, political, economic, and cultural development of Afrohondurans, traditionally marginalized in Honduran society and politics. ODECO was among the many organizations in Honduras that denounced the June 28 coup d'etat.
Following a history of exclusion of Afrohondurans from politics, Martinez is somewhat exceptional. In 1996, the same year he began working for ODECO, he became an activist in the PINU-SD party. The Partido de Innovación y Unidad Social Democratica defines itself as dedicated to making each individual the "owner of his own destiny", with a platform that calls for national unity, respect for private property, and development of the agricultural and agro-industrial sector, and for the unity of the population based on the family.
In 2004 Martinez became PINU party president, with a term lasting through 2006. In 2009 he was selected as the PINU-SD party's candidate for president, and came in third in the November election, with less than 2 percent of the total vote.
Pofirio Lobo Sosa had already announced that he would appoint all the former presidential candidates to positions in his "reconciliation" government when ODECO requested Lobo Sosa appoint some Afrohondurans to high ranking positions in his government, claiming previous governments had ignored them. The appointment of Martinez thus fulfills two goals for the Lobo Sosa administration.
When Martinez assumed the post he became the highest ranking Afrohonduran ever to serve in the national government, a distinction previously held by Lic. Salvador Suazo, Viceminister of Culture under the Zelaya administration. Salvador Suazo is the author of the book De Saint Vincent a Roatan: Un resumen etnohistorica Garifuna, among others, and at the time of his removal from office by the de facto regime in 2009, he was working on a Garifuna dictionary.
It will be interesting to see what steps Martinez, who the Honduran press represented as the "Barack Obama" of Honduras after he won the PINU presidential nomination-- an identification he disclaimed-- takes in his new-found role as Minister of Culture, where he succeeds the historian Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle.